“In the beginning the church was a fellowship of men and women centering on the living Christ. Then the church moved to Greece, where it became a philosophy. Then it moved to Rome, where it became an institution. Next, it moved to Europe, where it became a culture. And, finally, it moved to America, where it became an enterprise.”I sometimes hear someone say that the 1st century church is a model for how church oughta be.. hmmm.. I wonder if that statement is reflective more of a dislike of the modern day church than a real identity with the early church. Halverson's comment got me to thinking.. is it possible to have a fellowship of men and women centering on the living Christ in the 21st century that looks different than that of the 1st century? I think that it is.. even if it is within the context of an enterprise.
I think that if the focus is on fellowshipping around Jesus and His mission the church could be a dynamic setting for changing the world. The issue is one one of focus. The word missional is batted round much these days and everything espoused from a certain sect of the faith seems to include that word - I like the word. It speaks to me of the need we have to live our lives with a mission. For me the mission is a simple and overused one - love God and love people.
This love does not come without cost though. I am always amazed at.. like the early church.. how much I am called to follow Jesus in a way that challenges me every day. What I really want is to live my faith out of a cerebral context.. but it just doesn't work because to live a life of faith means to live it with my innermost being fully engaged. Engaging our innermost being is the essence of loving God and loving people. It doesn't make sense to our head and I hope it never does. When Jesus says:
"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." -Matthew 16:24He speaks to us at a inner and outer being level.. for to deny yourself your inner being must be stronger than your outer being. The taking up of your cross and the following of Jesus are matters of the inner being. I guess in that respect the church has not evolved. Though physical and organizational structures may have changes the essence of faith has not. The church is still all about loving with our innermost being.